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Robots taking over the workforce?

The current debate of raising the minimum wage may soon be moot, at least for some industries. Fast food chains have started to experiment with replacing workers with new technology, which is expected to contribute to the drop in need for human workers. 

One side of the minimum wage debate reports that cities that have raised the minimum wage have experienced greater growth in jobs and economy. However, the opposition argues that when faced with greater cost of doing business, companies will make cuts to keep costs down.

The restaurant industry has already invested heavily in exploring automated alternatives. What exactly does this mean? It means that although human interaction is currently the cornerstone of the hospitality industry, it will increasingly shift to software and machines doing the heavy lifting. Panera has announced that it is introducing self-order kiosks into its stores and Applebee’s and Chili’s said that they will have tablets at their tables to people can eat out without ever talking to a server. 

News reports indicate that some of the largest mining companies in the world are also planning on aggressively pursuing mass automation to cut production costs, as China threatens to put a large portion of these companies out of business. Given the recent global commodity prices - a move that has futures brokers recalculating.

Looking forward, one can imagine delivery drivers replaced by self-driving cars, or even drones. There are already companies selling robots for bartending and gourmet burger prep. This development is meant to increase efficiency while minimizing cost by saving on labor, but its implications are troublesome. What happens to the workers found to be redundant? What will happen to the national economy if mass unemployment hits us again? Small business owners will have to work hard to compete with the advantages provided to large corporations that have the resources to invest in this kind of technological advancement. 

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